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Cancellara Hour Record bid on ice as UCI mulls rule changes

Brian Cookson in favour of letting riders use modern track bikes rather than 1972 Eddy Merckx-style ones

Fabian Cancellara’s bid to set a new Hour Record, said to have been pencilled in for August 3 in Mexico, has reportedly been put on hold while the UCI considers which rules should apply – and specifically, the type of bike that can be used. Trek, sponsor of Cancellara’s Trek Factory Racing team, has been working on a bike that will comply with current rules.

Under rules in place since 2000, any attempt on the official UCI Hour Record must be made on a bike, and in a riding position, similar to those used by Eddy Merckx when he set a distance of 49.431km in 1972. When those rules were introduced Merckx’ record was reinstated to make it a contest between riders rather than technology.

That rule change came after a battle for the record during the 1990s saw radical developments in bike design such as Mike Burrows’ Lotus bike, used by Chris Boardman, and Graeme Obree pioneering the ‘egg’ and ‘Superman’ riding positions.

Since Merckx’s record was reinstated with the purpose of levelling the playing field, only two riders have beaten it – Boardman in 2000, riding 49.441km, and current record holder Ondrej Sosenka, who rode 49.700 five years later.

Sosenka’s otherwise utterly unremarkable career ended in 2008 when he tested positive for methamphetamine and its metabolites.

In February, UCI president Brian Cookson told VeloNews that the governing body’s management committee had asked its track commission to consider changes to the rules surrounding the Hour Record, with potential changes due to be made by the middle of the year.

He said: “My own view is that the so-called athletes’ hour, the record on the old traditional track bike, I think it was a nice idea, but frankly I think it’s an idea whose time has passed.”

Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena told Cycling Weekly’s Gregor Brown that although Trek has been developing a bike for Cancellara that complies with the current rules, the uncertainty over potential changes means the project has to be put on hold for now.

“We are waiting for the UCI to set the rules for the Hour Record,” explained Guercilena. “Once we know that, we will know if the Hour Record will go ahead.

“Cookson said they are supposed to go back to allowing cyclist to use time trial bikes but if that’s the case, we then know which record to beat. If it will be [Tony] Rominger’s record [55.291km set in 1994] or Boardman’s record [56.375km set in 1996].

“As usual, if you want to beat something, you need to know what you want to beat.”

He added that he has asked the UCI to clarify the situation but has not yet received a reply.

Guercilena also said that Trek had put time and money into developing the bike that Cancellara had hoped to attempt the record on, although it is unclear how much of that work was done after Cookson spoke of the possibility of the rules being changed.

“It’s a big deal with Trek. It’s a lot of money to spend and time invested.

“We don’t know which direction to go, so it’s not so easy,” Guercilena said.

“The problem is, if they take too long… You know, you can’t just prepare the materials for an event like that in a snap. We were almost done with the bike and the wheels, and everything for the Eddy Merckx position. It’s a big pity,” he added.

Were the rules to change along the lines favoured by the UCI president Cancellars would be free to attempt the record on Trek's Speed Concept 9.9 time trial bike.

When the idea of Cancellara attempting the Hour Record was first mooted last year, Sir Bradley Wiggins expressed an interest in having a crack at it himself, possibly in London. If Wiggins were attempting the record as the rules currently stand it would abe on board a Pinarello Dogma road bike, no doubt specially adapted for the purpose, if the rules revert to allowing TT bikes as suggested by Cookson he would be free to compete on Pinarello's Bolide TT machine developed by the Italian company with input from Sky and British Cycling.

Reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin a  has also said he may consider an attempt, although his main priority over the next two years will be aiming for Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, having been beaten into second place by Wiggins at London 2012. Martin currently rides a Specialized so his choice would be between the Venge or the Shiv TT machine. Given his emphasis on Rio the chance to ride the same bike for both would obviously be useful.

The prospect of the world’s three top time triallists battling for the record caused a fair deal of excitement among fans, evoking memories of the battles between the likes of Boardman, Obree, Rominger, Miguel Indurain and Francesco Moser in the mid-1980s.

Whether that three-way tussle will ever take place, and the type of bike allowed, now appears to depend on the UCI.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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